Where do I begin to tell this story, this rest of the story? Since March, I have only shared one blog, on May 4th on my 65th birthday, and this very personal message explains the lapse. It is difficult news, perhaps even heart-breaking news. At least it broke mine.
The middle of October will mark what would have been my 40th wedding anniversary, and after four decades of marriage I am now divorced. I remain shocked at this unexpected state, yet I am fully at peace. I never imagined that I would be here, and I am blessed to be serene and surprisingly grateful.
While my marriage was peaceful and marked by great compatibility in every practical way, there were long-term challenges that proved intractable. As my own emotional state became increasingly more distressed by the unresolved issues, I eventually decided to separate, although I had no plans to divorce. I found great solace in solitude and was committed to the covenant we established in 1981. I gave myself three to six months to decide my future path, and I quickly grew certain that remaining married, but permanently separated, was right for me. Nine months alone brought great relief and a continued vow to remain married for the rest of our lives.
That commitment changed in late March, when I discovered that I am on the partner side of the sexual addiction coin: that my husband had been acting out sexually for a long time. I was blindsided by that accidental revelation and its long-term implications for our history, and I was also relieved to make sense of our marital story. (I know every partner of an addict understands this feeling. I certainly understand partners more deeply now.) After so many years of unidentified distress, along with no signs of my husband taking responsibility or any steps toward health, I made the choice to divorce. That process concluded in recent weeks.
My now ex-husband and I didn’t “fail” at marriage. We created a safe, productive home and raised two splendid children together. We have supported each other in every practical way. Although a part of me wishes I had known much earlier what I know now, I am equally convinced that this timing is right. I have wrestled with God about this relationship for at least 15 years, and I have worked harder to save it than I have worked at anything in my life. No, this is not the outcome I hoped and prayed for, yet these have not been wasted years. One of my dear brothers reminded me that it’s never a bad thing to re-up with God, and I am a better person for this lengthy struggle.
My former spouse is a good man: kind, servant-hearted, dependable, and present at every event for our children. I, too, am a good person: self-aware, compassionate, persevering, and 100 percent committed to personal and relational healing. As two wounded people with varying degrees of recovery, I believe we each did the very best we could, and I am grateful to stand on that solid truth. We remain cooperative and cordial and continue to enjoy our children and grandchildren.
To be clear, my feelings of relief and serenity don’t begin to negate the anguish I have felt for so many months. Grief is jarring, brutal. It slices through every pore, every reserve, every breath; then it returns to slash again. After decades of grieving for the relationship I had always hoped to have, and eventually coming to peace with my state and my choices, discovery ravished my heart, my equilibrium, my very core. Perhaps the hardest thing I have ever done (and I’ve lived through some very hard things) was to look each of my adult children in the eye and to say that I had arrived, unexpected, on their doorsteps to share terrible news that was going to break their hearts.
Yet I also know I am as well or better prepared than anyone on the planet to deal with this situation. As someone in recovery from her own sex and love addiction since 1991, I fully understand the powerlessness and shame of addictive behavior. I have the benefit of years of therapy, sobriety, and personal healing. I knew that I had choices which would lead to personal restoration whether my husband chose health or not. I have had deep experience with grief and the taxing journey it demands, and I was confident I could walk that valley again.
Most importantly, I have spent 25 years building an astonishing support system. On the evening of discovery, I immediately called four people who are in my inner circle, and within 24 hours, another dozen were aware of my situation. I have been lavished with consistent, unequivocal, non-judgmental support. None of my people have given me advice; they have simply held my hands, sometimes my body, and always my heart as I walked this road. I am more grateful for this support than I have ever been for anything in my life except for my relationship with God.
My “MamaGod” has been ever present. She has helped me through each challenge and step; she has consoled and uplifted me. I am more connected to my God than I ever dreamed, and in her unfailing love I receive the desires of my heart beyond my wildest imaginings. My professional helpers are wise, compassionate, and challenging when I need it. Such gifts!
As you receive this news, I ask that you respect my family’s privacy and process. Please offer nothing beyond your prayers or kind words. No one is either the villain or victim here. All of us are still navigating this unexpected road, and it is full of jarring potholes that can shake us off kilter.
I’m choosing to share publicly this private news as a matter of integrity. I believe that the alumni, referents, friends, and supporters of Bethesda Workshops deserve to know that I am no longer married. Sharing also honors my long practice of transparency and vulnerability in my writing, speaking, and clinical work. Mine may not be the traditional “happily ever after” story, but it is still mine, and I am still certain that my personal “ever after” will be good – beyond good.
I have long been uncomfortable with the pedestal I’m aware I occupy in the minds of some. Please allow me to be simply myself: an imperfect, complicated, wounded, passionate, healing woman choosing to embrace life in all its complexity.
I am moving forward with immense gratitude. My days are more often delightful than not, and my spirit is rooted in a deepening love for all who suffer, including myself and my family. I am walking forward with joy.
I am grateful for your support for Bethesda Workshops through so many years, and I pray for your comfort as you face your own challenges.
Marnie C. Ferree